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Redirected school funding restored to facilities account

SoVaNow.com / September 12, 2012
Moments after giving the go-ahead for elementary construction projects, county supervisors acted Monday night to restore money in a school facilities account that had been directed to an unrelated account by Superintendent of Schools James Thornton.

The supervisors took the unusual step of reordering the School Board budget after hearing a report by local CPA David Alga, whose firm, Creedle, Jones & Alga, performed a recent audit of Mecklenburg County Public Schools activities funds.

Traditionally, activity funds are administered by individual schools and hold monies raised by students or for the benefit of student activities — such as gate receipts from a football game.

Alga claimed he was concerned when, during the audit, he discovered that the activity fund took in $320,000. These monies were transferred at the discretion of the superintendent at the close of the 2010-2011 fiscal year, said Alga.

The deposit was left over from monies originally set aside for facilities improvements at the elementary and middle schools. Approximately $180,000 was used for just such a purpose — to complete construction and install air conditioning at the three elementary school gymnasiums, in Chase City, Clarksville and La Crosse.

Alga took exception to the fact the $320,000 was co-mingled with student activities funds. It should have been placed in a capital improvements fund, said Alga.

To date, none of the activities monies have been spent on facilities improvements. “None of the money raised by students and placed in the student activity fund was used for any purpose other than student activities,” Alga said.

Of the $320,000 earmarked for facilities, Alga said $150,000 was carried over from unspent maintenance monies for Chase City, Clarksville, and La Crosse elementaries. Another $170,000 was excess maintenance money that was allocated for parking lot improvements at the county’s two middle schools.

Customarily, said County Administrator Wayne Carter, the School Board will ask the supervisors at the end of the fiscal year to reappropriate unspent funds back into the school budget for the upcoming year. Carter said it is also customary for the supervisors to grant such requests; however, the Board has a policy that requires all excess funds from the schools to be deposited in the school facilities fund.

School Board Chairman Robert Puryear, on hand for the supervisors’ meeting Monday night, assured members that his board is aware of the problem and has implemented measures to prevent the redirection of monies into the student activities fund in the future. Alga added that he was comfortable with the process put in place by the school trustees, which includes training for school bookkeepers, and said that the State Board of Education is working on clarifying its policy regarding the use and administration of school activities funds.

In recent years, Alga noted, the Virginia Department of Education has loosened its standards for administering student activities accounts, giving superintendents broad discretion to direct money into the accounts if they have insufficient cash on hand to cover expenses. Also, the definition of student activities has expanded, and can pertain to events or activities not directly involving students.

After hearing Alga’s presentation, supervisors voted to remove the balance of $140,483 from the school activity fund, placing it instead in the school facilities account.

The final comment on the matter came from Tanner, who called for an accounting of monies expended for the three gymnasiums. “I want to know the bottom line, what the gyms cost.”

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Comments

So what! The money is being used for what it need to be used for and the schools did nothing illegal. Why is this a story?

Comments

Why hasn't any school funds been used to purchase new heating system for park view middle school? Students and staff have to go to classes throughout the day wearing coats,hats and gloves. And children are expected to pay attention and learn while freezing.newhigh tech locks on all doors for staff only seems costly but there's not enough to replace heating system. Maybe "that" should be looked into for future renovation to be done during the summer while the children out on break.


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